It is said that television critics have the easiest jobs in the world. “You watch TV for a living? Give me a break” is the usual response when any occupational conversation is started. With that being said, it’s in September when we collectively earn our keep. They say that time is money and if that is the case, after screening all of the new shows with a couple of exceptions (looking at you Malibu Country), here’s what I think you should invest in. I have broken it down into the good, the meh, and the ugh.
The New Normal
At the CTV Upfront, when I saw a few scenes of Ryan Murphy’s new comedy, I thought it was average at best. A light version of ABC’s Modern Family that was only trying to copy its success with the redefinition of the nuclear and traditional family. Once again, after screening the first episode (which airs tonight), I was mesmerized. The show is hysterical and features a cast that might be funniest on TV. The concept is simple. A successful gay couple in Beverly Hills, Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) decide to have a baby and their search for a surrogate leads them to Goldie (Georgia King), a Midwestern waitress and single mother who is desperate to escape her small-minded grandmother Jane (Ellin Barkin) and show her daughter that there is more to life than pride and prejudice. The result is touching as the show infuses a little bit of Three Men And A Baby with Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place. The pilot was so touching, in fact, that it would be shocking to not see most viewers reduced to tears. While I appreciate American Horror Story as much as anyone, Murphy’s best work comes when he is able to convey powerful emotion (the David Karofsky episode of Glee is a notable example), and The New Normal‘s premiere episode is just as capturing. The effortless way Murphy is able to write about the polarizing issue of gay couples being able to adopt while also inserting a comedic undertone shows his brilliance as a writer. Barkin’s character is also a necessary evil as her narrow-mindedness sheds light on the subject as well. If Jane is the Sue Sylvester of The New Normal, I expect her character to only get better. This is a must-watch. (September 10 @ 10 p.m., NBC, CTV; moves to regular timeslot on September 11 @ 9:30 pm, CTV)
The Mob Doctor
I was prepared to write The Mob Doctor off as a miss as I didn’t really find the idea that a surgeon’s career being owned by the mafia completely compelling (in fact, it reminded me of an old episode of Without A Trace). With that being said, I thought that Jordana Spiro’s portrayal of Dr. Grace Devlin, is effective as she tries to juggle mob-related medical demands with emotional cases during her day job. I also am a fan of Zach Gilford from Friday Night Lights who plays Dr. Brett Robinson (Devlin’s boyfriend), although I do think that the five year age difference between them seems like much more than that. With that being said, I am not sure about how much staying power The Mob Doctor has, but its premiere episode has an ending that completely shocked me and I am in the business of predicting what happens on television shows. For that reason alone, I will make The Mob Doctor one of the darkhorses in the new season. It’s almost like last year’s Grimm. (September 16, 9 p.m., CTV; September 17, 9 p.m., FOX)
One of Citytv’s most buzzed about new shows for the upcoming season is NBC import, Revolution. The epic adventure series is the brainchild of director Jon Favreau, J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke. It is set in a post-apocalyptic society where one family struggles to reunite in a time where every single piece of technology including computers, planes, cars, phones and lights have blacked out forever.
For storyline purposes, Charlie Matheson is the equivalent of The Hunger Games‘ Katniss Everdeen. Played by Canadian Tracy Spiridakos, Charlie sets out to find her brother after her father is killed and her brother is kidnapped by the militia led by Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito). This forces her to reunite with her estranged uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a former U.S. Marine who now lives as a recluse. In addition to their personal familial struggles, they must also figure out why the world went dark and if the power will ever return.
The show is a little bit of Lost, some Terra Nova, a pinch of Alcatraz, a dollop of FlashForward and mostly reminds me of one of NBC’s most underrated series, The Event. It seems that creative television execs believe that as a society, we are obsessed with the ‘end of days’ storyline on television. My initial take on Revolution, is that it will almost certainly be a serial series where you absolutely have to watch every episode from the beginning and then hold on to your seat for the rest, because jumping into it in the middle would almost be impossible. With that being said, out of the series that it pays tribute to, only one of them could be called a success so it’s always risky to bank on these kinds of concepts. (September 17 @ 10 p.m., NBC, Citytv)
The Mindy Project
I am always skeptical when stars of hit shows leave for seemingly greener pastures. When Steve Carrell left The Office, I thought that it was a terrible decision as I doubted his ability to find any television script that would be as funny. I felt the same way about Mindy Kaling. I was never quite sure about how I felt about her Dunder-Mifflin personna Kelly, but certainly thought that she would be missed on The Office‘s writing team. The trailers for The Mindy Project also didn’t resonate with me when they first started airing. All that aside,, the pilot episode was flawless. It was heart-warming, funny, and most importantly, relevant. Kaling’s uncanny ability to write for TV, her references to Siri and giving her self-titled character advice from a Barbie doll (buried at the bottom of a pool that she drunkenly dove into after getting smashed at an ex’s wedding) are hilariously relatable. The fact that she can call herself chubby and be okay with it almost makes her the new face of feminism. I love the fact that the show is paired with New Girl by both FOX and Citytv as it is perfect scheduled. The series is wickedly witty and adorably cute. If it was a school assignment, The Mindy Project gets an A+. (September 25 @ 9:30 p.m., FOX, Citytv)
The Last Resort is anything but that in terms of deciding what new shows to tune into this season. The dramatic thriller revolves around the U.S. ballistic missile submarine Colorado. Over a radio channel, designed to be used only if their homeland was wiped out, the Colorado’s crew is ordered to fire nuclear weapons at Parkistan. Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andrew Braugher) demands confirmation of the order before launching the strike, only to be relieved of his post by the White House. XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) suddenly finds himself in charge and is also ordered to launch the attack. Following the lead of his commanding officer, he also refuses to fire without justification. Upon the second rejection, the Colorado itself is attacked and, as a result of the hit, the submarine and its crew are declared rogue enemies of their own country. With no place to call home and no one coming to rescue them, Chaplin and Kendal steer the ship to an exotic island as they try to somehow find their way back to the States. The premiere episode was exciting, enthralling, enticing and encapsulating all at the same time. There wasn’t a single moment when the action stopped and the end scene is the perfect set-up for the rest of the season. While I never got into the NCIS style of procedural drama, I believe that Last Resort does an effective job at merging the things we love about procedure along with the escapism that is prevalent in an adventure series. Scott Speedman has always been looking for the role that will define him and to finally shed his Ben character from Felicity and I think this is the one that will elevate him into becoming one of television’s leading men. I also believe that Andrew Braugher is an extremely underrated actor and he is clearly the heart and soul of this series. It will be nice to see him finally get the recognition that he so richly deserves. (September 27 @ 8 p.m., ABC, Global)
One of the most buzzed about shows of the new season is Elementary. A focal point during Shaw Media’s Upfront presentation, the drama is a modern-day series about Detective Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) as a crime solving duo who crack the NYPD’s most impossible cases. After his fall from grace in London, Holmes escapes to Manhattan where he is forced to live with Watson to ensure he didn’t start drinking again. A successful surgeon until her license was revoked, Watson sees her job as a way to atone for her past mistakes. When Watson is offered a job as a police consultant, he brings his new friend along because of her medical background. The result is an unstoppable team. I though the pilot was good and I do like the dynamic between Miller and Liu. While it does not come close to matching the relationship shared between Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams on Suits, it certainly isn’t bad. Worth a look. (September 27, 10 p.m., CBS, Global)
666 Park Avenue
The scariest shows on TV are the ones that you don’t watch live just to have the benefit of being able to forward through all of the terrifying moments. When I reviewed the pilot of this David Wilcox creation, the premise immediately drew me in. Imagine a world where everything you desire can be yours. For the residents of the Drake at 999 Park Avenue, (an uppity building in Manhattan), this is the case but they quickly realize that 666 Park Avenue might be a more apt description for their place of residence because having their needs fulfilled come with a costly price. When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable) are offered the chance to manage the building by its mysterious owners, Gavin (Terry O’Quinn) and Olivia (Vanessa Williams) Doran, it seems too good to be true. As the series moves forward, they quickly realize that every Faustian contract comes with a price. The formula for new fall shows as of late has been to try and take elements of shows that have already worked and try to manipulate them into a new format. While there are certainly elements of Fringe and Lost in 666 Park Avenue, it still seems fresh and exciting. Given the prevailing success of American Horror Story, it seems that scary shows are all the rage and in terms of the new TV season, this show is definitely the most frightening. Just like the residents of The Drake, while TV audiences want to be scared, it comes with a price. Getting addicted to one more show. (September 30 @ 10 p.m., ABC, Citytv)
The Bachelor Canada
I am obviously partial to reality television (duh) and I have a particular affinity for Canadian versions of American blockbusters. The Bachelor Canada is the first major test of Canadians trying their own version of a major reality series since CTV pulled the plugs on both Canadian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance Canada. From what I have seen so far, this one has a shot. I think that the choice of Tyler Harcott to host was an inspired selection. While the Calgary native has hosted 14 other programs (including Junkyard Wars and Miss America: Countdown To The Crown), he is still a relatively fresh face and I believe his cheese factor is about a 100 times less than his U.S. counterpart Chris Harrison. Trust me when I say that this is a good thing. While I am still deciding about the first Canadian Bachelor, CFL player Brad Smith, I am sure that the Canadian bachelorettes will be just as hot as the American ones and, come on, that’s really what we all watch this for. I am tossing my name in as a candidate for the second season. (October 3, 9 p.m., Citytv; moves to regular timeslot on October 10, 9:30 p.m., Citytv)
Comic book adaptations are tricky both on the big and small screen. Comic book fans are some of the most knowledgeable about their passion and as a result, they are always the first to point out storyline errors or questionable characterizations that do not conform to the original story. In that respect, it’s always tough to do an effective job at not only appeasing the television audience but the comic book one as well. A modern retelling of the legendary DC Comics character Green Arrow, Arrow tells the story of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who, after a violent shipwreck was presumed dead but returns to Starling City five years after his initial disappearance. Upon his return, he is welcomed by his sister Thea (Willa Holland) and mother (Susanna Thompson). The more interesting reunions are with his former best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell) and his former flame Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). As Queen tries to reintegrate, he creates the Arrow persona to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society. What I like the most about the show is that it deals with the supernatural world of comic books in a very true-to-life format. Even if Amell didn’t don the green hood, you would still find his character to be believable and that is the show’s most impressive quality. In addition, the acting is top-notch. I believe that Katie Cassidy is the best actress on television today as she proved on both Melrose Place and Gossip Girl. Willa Holland was also one of the unheralded stars of The O.C.. In the end though, this show lives and dies with its hero (pun intended) and no one is better suited for the spotlight than Amell. This show is a must-watch if only to find out when Cassidy’s character turns into the Black Canary. The show is fun, flirty and fantastic! Ready for it? Okay. Arrow can’t miss! (October 10 @ 8 p.m., The CW, CTV Two)
There is an unwritten rule in TV. Connie Britton can’t fail. She was phenomenal in Friday Night Lights and followed that up brilliantly with American Horror Story. In Callie Khouri’s Nashville, Britton plays Rayna James, a country legend whose popularity is starting to wane with the younger country crowd. Her label suggests a concert tour where she opens up for aggressive up-and-comer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is what James needs to revive her falling sales. The power struggle between old and new represented by Rayna vs. Juliette is the core storyline for the series, that also represents the Nashville music scene nicely. The chemistry between Panettiere and Britton is palpable and they explode on the screen when they are together. With the success of the Dallas reboot and the soapy primetime feel of Nashville, this show is definitely a winner. Top marks. (October 10, 10 p.m., ABC, CTV Two)
Emily Owens M.D.
I wasn’t sure to what to think of Mamie Gummer. I am sure the actress will never be able to shake the stigma of being Meryl Streep’s daughter. While I thought that she was okay in Off The Map, she certainly wasn’t the standout. After watching Emily Owens M.D., I feel differently. Perhaps it is a result of my addiction to Ally McBeal, but this show and character completely reminded me of my favorite FOX comedy from the 90’s. Gummer plays the title character, a first-year intern at Denver Memorial Hospital. She works alongside her med school crush Will Rider (Justin Hartley) and her high school nemesis Cassandra Kopelson (Aja Naomi King). Rounding out the group is her new best friend Tyra (Kelly McCreary) and her resident Micah (Michael Rady). In addition to the similarities with Ally McBeal, I also thought of this show as Grey’s Anatomy, back when it was fresh, cool, and new. Before we were riddled with Derek and Meredith trying to adopt, George being the personification of good and Bailey bitchy behavior. There is a scene in the premiere episode where Tyra explains all the different types of doctors as being cliques in highschool with the anesthesiologists being the stoners (which made me laugh out loud). Emily Owens M.D. is sweet, relatable and surprising. It gets the recommurtzdation. (October 16, 9 p.m., CTV Two; October 16, 8 p.m. The CW)
Made In Jersey
This drama focuses on Martina Garretti (Janet Montgomery), a young working class woman who uses her street smarts to compete among her fellow associates at a prestigious Manhattan law firm. What she lacks in Ivy League education, she makes up for with tenacity and blue collar insight. Think Jersey Shore meets Law & Order. A complete cliché, but the premiere was mildly entertaining. (September 28, 9 p.m., CBS, Global)
New series tells the story of the everyday heroes of Chicago Firehouse 41. When a tragedy claims one of the firefighters, there is plenty of guilt but the men and women of the Chicago Fire Department put that aside when they know the job that has to be done. This one didn’t garner a reaction from me either way, but I did like seeing Jesse Spencer from House again. Doubt I’ll tune in again, but maybe you will. (October 10, 10 p.m., NBC, Global)
While most of the shows in the new season surprised me in a good way, Vegas had the opposite effect. I expected big things from the CBS drama which co-stars Hollywood heavy hitters Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, and Carrie-Anne Moss but was completely bored by the pilot. The show is inspired by the true story of former Las Vegas Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Quaid). A fourth-generation rancher who is tasked with bringing order to Sin City in the 1960s. He clashes with Vincent Savino (Chiklis), a Chicago gangster who intends to rule Vegas in the same manner he took over Chicago. My primary issue with the show is that it didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be. It was part procedural, part mystery, and part serialized drama. The procedural aspect of it was lost on me because in the 60’s they didn’t have the forensics we are used to seeing on C.S.I. and, as a result, it seems almost comical when Lamb uses gum to keep a door unlocked so that he can break in later to investigate. Complete dud. (September 25, 10 p.m., CBS, Global)
In a crowded TV landscape, I feel that this comedy by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (the brains behind Will & Grace) might get lost in the shuffle. Loosely based on their own friendship, Kohan and Mutchnick have written this show about Joe (David Krumholtz) an accomplished architect who leads with his heart and not his head and not his heart. His best friend and business partner Louis (Michael Urie) is the exact opposite bringing spontaneity, emotion and exaggeration to the friendship. The premiere episode had a few laughs, but given the high quality of comedies that are already on (Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls, The Big Bang Theory), I just don’t think this one measures up. (September 24 @ 8:30 p.m., CBS, Citytv)
Absolutely hated this one. Somehow, it’s genre as a sci-fi family comedy seems just as odd as its concept. The show follows one family’s move into the suburbs when they discover that their neighbors are aliens in disguise. Marty (Lenny Venito) and Debbie (Jami Gertz) buy a home in Hidden Hills, a gated community in New Jersey to provide a better life for their three kids. They quickly notice the absurdity of their neighbors who all have pro-athlete names like Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), and Dick Butkis (Ian Patrick). The Weavers are horrified when they learn that they are actually surrounded by aliens from Zabvron but quickly get past it as the humans and UFOs realize that they can learn a lot from each other. Sound crazy? That’s because it is. Skip it. (September 29, 10 p.m., CTV, September 26, 9:30 p.m., ABC)
Tags: Arrow, Elementary, Last Resort, murtz, Nashville, Partners, revolution, The Bachelor Canada, The Mindy Project, The Mob Doctor, Vegas